The Indian and French navies have rescued an Indian dhow with a crew of 14 Indians after it was hijacked by pirates off Boosaaso in Somali last Friday.
The MV (Merchant Vessel) Nafeya, registered at Porbandar in the western Indian state of Gujarat, was hijacked at 1100 hours local time by seven pirates armed with RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) and AK-47s, 10 nm (nautical miles) off Boosaaso in Puntland (the semi-autonomous north-eastern region of Somalia) after it had discharged its cargo at the Somali harbor. The Nafeya was operating from the UAE and proceeding to Dubai at the time.
The pirates then tried to use the hijacked dhow to attempt a second hijack of a Liberian Tanker, MVA Elephant, at the position 12 23N 043 42E, after forcing the dhow towards Bab el Mandeb on Monday. The Elephant is a 265,000 ton Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC).
The Indian Navy says ‘the attack was thwarted by a French warship belonging to the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), which was in the vicinity. The French warship shadowed the pirated dhow and, putting the well practiced standard operating procedures with the Indian Navy into effect, continuously exchanged information with the Indian naval ship on anti-piracy patrol. The dhow was thereafter tracked continuously by the warships of both navies’.
While attempts were made to board the dhow by the French naval ship, the idea was discarded when the pirates threatened to kill the 14 crew of the dhow.
‘Observing the movements of the Indian and French warships and anticipating a combined operation, the pirates forced the dhow to close the Somali coast and released the dhow at 0300 h on 15 Jul 09, escaping in their skiffs, after robbing the crew of all their cash and valuables,’ said the Indian Navy in a statement also describing the conclusion of the incident.
‘The crew of the dhow thereafter contacted the Indian warship on VHF and sought assistance. Accordingly, the Indian warship closed the dhow and in coordination with the French warship, boarded the dhow to provide succor. All 14 Indian crew of the vessel were confirmed as being safe and the Indian warship provided them with food, water and medicines. The dhow is now heading towards Al Mukkalla in Yemen.’
The Indian Navy has declined to identify the warships involved in the rescue, even though the photographs released show the Indian vessel to be a Godavari class Type 16 frigate. The navy follows this practice as a security measure for warships at sea.
However, the EU NAVFOR has identified the ships involved as the French Aconit and the INS Godavari.